The Republic of Rumi: A Novel of Reality
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The Republic of Rumi: a Novel of Reality

Chapter 36

Hafez of Shiraz


By Khurram Ali Shafique

The armies of Britain, France, Italy and Greece enter Constantinople. The Ottoman Caliph, who is the emblem of Muslim unity, hands over his power. Thus the rule that triggered the European Renaissance almost five hundred years ago comes to end now. Having already acquired the Middle East through the treachery of Arab chieftains, the Allied armies now begin genocide of Turks in the Turks’ own land.

Mustafa Kemal Pasha, a Turk veteran of the World War, gathers the masses under his banner and defeats the invaders. After regaining Constantinople, he declares that the days of imperialism are finally over, relinquishing all claims of his people on lands that do not belong to them.

Beyond this realm of ideas lies a tavern for restoring some madness to the method. The signboard reads ‘The Remaining Wine’ – a suitable name for such a place?

The Remaining Wine

The nomadic conqueror from Central Asia, Tamerlane, is flashing like lightning across empires, razing cities to rubble and erecting towers of severed skulls. Sitting beside clear blue ponds amid lush green meadows, the Persian poet Hafez of Shiraz is putting the sweet unconscious spirituality of the nightingale in words like cut jewels. His poetry is like narcotics that may sooth the nerves after prolonged periods of sustained activity.

“Spring has spread out a banquet up to the Garden,” you hear a familiar voice as you enter the tavern. The ghazals served here are distinctly crossed with the brew of Hafez, whose effect on Goethe was to get him stirred but not shaken. “Do not imagine that our clay was fashioned when the world was made,” you hear after you have taken a few drinks. “We are still a thought in Being’s mind!”

Music is heard, and then a voice: “O singer! Sing verses from the holy guide Rumi so that my soul may be immersed in the fire of Tabriz!” “Our goal is God,” the saying of Rumi blazes through the consciousness.

“Your Beauty shines through the glass like the color of reflection,” Iqbal offers a toast to the Almighty. “Just like wine, You too have veiled Yourself with a goblet’s wall!” It starts getting heavier as he declares, “A true lover does not differentiate between the Kabah and the idol house. One is the Beloved’s privacy and the other His public appearance. Learn how to put a rosary bead on the thread of the Brahmin, and if your eyes see double then learn how not to see.”

Then a tankard comes with an unusual label: ‘Addressed to a Sufi’. It goes on to say:

Do not talk any more about Joseph we have lost: the warmth of a Zulaykha’s heart neither you have nor I.

Zulaykha attempted to seduce Joseph and accused him falsely upon getting exposed. The imprisoned Joseph interpreted a significant dream of the King but refused to come out until Zulekha and her friends were asked to tell the truth. Then they confessed even at a risk to their life.

Likewise, Iqbal and the Sufis will have to stand witness when their Joseph comes out. They are not ready just now.

DISCUSS

  • Why may Iqbal and the Sufis not be ready now?


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The reader visits a tavern where wine extracted from the verses of Hafiz is served with a rather unusual reference to Joseph.
Persian text